New Data Show Smart Displays Like Amazon Echo Show Struggle to Find an Audience

  • Only 5.9% of smart speaker owners have acquired a Amazon Echo Show or Echo Spot, the only smart displays available for purchase today
  • About 3 million U.S. consumers have smart displays one year after launch
  • The bedroom nightstand-friendly Amazon Echo Spot has outsold Echo Show

Just about one year ago, Amazon launched the first smart speaker with a display screen, Echo Show. One year later, the device now fits in a category called smart displays and remains alone except for one other device from Amazon, the Echo Spot which closely resembles a clock radio. Several manufacturers announced at CES that they would bring smart displays with Google Assistant to market this year, open source device maker Mycroft will ship one in December and Facebook has two devices planned for the category. But, will these devices receive favorable consumer reception?

Only 1.2% of U.S. Adults Have a Smart Display

New data from a national consumer survey by and Voysis (pre-register here to receive the report data this week) show that only 5.9% of U.S. smart speaker owners have acquired an Echo Show or Spot smart display. When you deduplicate owners with both devices, this equates to about three million U.S. consumers with a smart display or about 1.2% of adults.

You can look back at the history of the Amazon Echo and it did not have 3 million device users for at least 18 months from launch, so the smart display progress could be viewed as positive. However, Echo Show was launched after consumers were already accustomed to smart speakers making awareness less of a problem. Amazon also had a smart speaker user base of around 10 million people at the time of launch which should have offered a ready market of customers for the more capable device.

The Rationale for Echo Show

What has not occurred yet is an Echo Show rationale convincing enough to lure consumers. It is a good device for video calling. For the very few Alexa skills that include video content such as Food Network and Jeopardy!, it’s an excellent solution. Originally, it was convenient for watching YouTube, but access was cut off by Google in November and again in December. Having used an Echo Show for the past year, I can attest that it is a superior device. But, it’s hard to know that until you have one and it is about five time more expensive than an entry-level Echo Dot and more than two times costlier than the Second Generation Echo. Regardless of Echo Show capabilities, the higher price tag is almost certainly suppressing sales.

Despite Shorter Lifespan Echo Spot Outsells and Outshine Echo Show

The smart display with a convincing rationale appears to be Echo Spot. A nightstand-friendly orb that resembles an elegant clock radio, Echo Spot has twice as many users as Echo Show despite being available for half as long. Echo Spot almost certainly benefitted from awareness around Echo Show given that 18.7% of smart display owners have both devices. However, it must be more than that factor alone given that only about one-fifth of Echo Spot owners also have a Show.

A bigger factor was likely the product rationale. Many smart speaker owners already had a device for the kitchen where Echo Show is particularly well suited. That meant relocating the existing kitchen-based device. By contrast, very few had smart speakers in the bedroom last year when Echo Spot arrived. And, Echo Spot has a clear purpose well suited to the bedroom. The product’s face is designed to be a clock display. Combine that utility with the alarm feature, smart home control, access to streaming music services and thousands of radio stations, and of course the weather, and you have a well-packaged device. Echo Spot also received positive reviews on its physical appearance–a sentiment never bestowed on Echo Show–and costs about $100 less.

Voicebot noted earlier that only the countries with Amazon Echo availability at the time of Echo Show launch have been able to purchase the device. It has not been launched in countries where the Echo smart speakers first arrived after June of 2017. However, Indian, Australian and Canadian consumers can all purchase Echo Spot. This either reflects a recognition by Amazon that Spot is a better-conceived device or we are about to see a second generation Echo Show and the company wants to focus on its newer product for international expansion. Recent discounting supports this point of view.

How Will New Smart Displays Be Received?

This raises a question for manufacturers of forthcoming smart displays from Lenovo, JBL, LG and Sony. These devices look a lot like Echo Show. If the boxy Echo Show form factor is not attractive to consumers, will these new smart displays fare any better? The big difference for these devices could be YouTube access, but you can also stream videos on your smartphone, tablet and increasingly on TVs. A screen is often useful for taking a simple interaction with a smart speaker and transforming it into a more engaging and helpful experience by offering visual elements.

The open question is whether consumers are prepared to pay another $100 for that added benefit. Is Echo Spot a bigger seller because of its packaging or price point? The success or failure of Google Assistant-supported smart displays may shed some light on that question. Smart displays may still become the “hot” gift during the 2018 holiday season the way smart speakers were in 2017.

Facebook is a Wildcard

One company with a clear rationale for a smart display is Facebook. Facebook is a social network, but it is also a media company and its media is predominantly visual. Super fans of the social network are likely to view favorably a smart speaker that displays Facebook content continuously. Facebook is not planning on a U.S. launch in 2018 based on the latest reporting, but likely will make its new smart displays available in some markets before year end.

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